Editor’s Note: This story was compiled before and during stay-at-home orders. Things are changing regularly and might have shifted since we printed this list. Please be sure to check with the brewery about hours and restrictions before you visit.
In their wildest dreams, the beer-quaffing Germans who settled Anaheim in the late 1800s couldn’t have imagined today’s expansive Orange County brewery scene. In venues ranging from cozy neighborhood pub to Costco-size beer hall, modern ale alchemists are concocting all sorts of suds—old-school, exotic, everything in between, plus a smorgasbord of hard seltzers, meads, and a few spirits.
Complemented by food trucks, in-house kitchens, live entertainment, and special events, beers come with a vibe and decor to suit any taste. A former marmalade factory decked out with comic book art and superheroes holds one operation. Another taproom is a throwback to the past, complete with vintage bottles, historic photos, and an 1888-style lager. The epicenter of this hops-and-barley renaissance is Anaheim, which has an unofficial beer trail along La Palma Avenue. But craft breweries can be found in nearly every corner of the county. So grab your growlers and go (lederhosen optional).
Growler: Glass jug for transporting draft beer, usually 64 ounces
Crowler: Aluminum can sealed to order with draft beer of choice, usually 32 ounces
Food trucks visit
Bottle Logic Brewing
Science is the watchword for “experimental beers” in a noisy tasting room, replete with jumbo electrical panels, beaker planters, and stylized posters. While sipping drinks with such monikers as Neolithic Isotope, Binary Sunset, or Piña Koala, customers can also browse bookshelves stocked with everything from “Harry Potter” to “Tarzan.” Anaheim, 714-660-2537
Pro tip: Beat the crowds by ordering from the alleyway bay door. G, C, FT
All-American Brew Works
On the eastern fringe of Anaheim’s La Palma Avenue beer trail, across from a trampoline park and next door to a meadery, you’ll find patriotic-titled drafts and hard seltzers. The beverages, many infused with fruit, are listed on large dog tags and include such names as Behind Enemy Lines, Liberty or Death, and Storm the Beach. Anaheim, 714-463-4474
Pro tip: Any brew can be ordered as a michelada, and craft sodas are available for kids. G, C, FT
Travel back in time to a TV-free outpost inspired by one of the city’s first taprooms. Sidle up to the vintage bar to try a pint of Anaheim 1888, a steam lager akin to what was served by the brewery’s 19th-century namesake. Historic photos, bottles, and artifacts round out the environment inside an old Packard showroom. Anaheim, 714-780-1888
Pro tip: The patio, furnished with beer garden tables from Germany, hosts a weekly quiz night and occasional musicians. G
With padded walls and libations named Rorschach, No Escape, and Monsters We Breed, this spot specializes in liquid psychotherapy. A poster of Danvers State Hospital in Massachusetts, an imposing structure that once held criminals and mentally ill people, hangs on the L-shaped bar. Despite the sanitarium theme, the atmosphere is warm. You can check out anytime you like, but you may not want to leave. Anaheim, 949-396-2099
Pro tip: Patients—er, customers—can play board games and sign up for a monthly craft and art class. G, C, FT
The Beer Co.
The iBrew system allows customers to create their own beers, but the taproom also offers rotating brews such as a saison made with rye malt and a Mexican-style ale with toasted rice and honey malt. Anaheim
Pro Tip: Give a seltzer-based cocktail or shandy-style beverage a try. G
Big enough to rival Costco, this is the King Kong of local taprooms. On weekends, three food trucks park inside the building’s main beer hall, which also houses a play area for kids, multiple cornhole games, a small stage for live music, and a section reserved for private events. Two smaller rooms and an outdoor patio provide additional seating. Anaheim, 657-999-1500
Pro tip: When things get ultra-crowded, head for the express bar, which stocks a smaller selection but has shorter lines. G, C, FT
You can choose your ambience: The front room, with its long bar, TVs, and digital jukebox, is livelier and more communal. But around the corner, big couches and comfy chairs offer a quieter, living room-like feel, plus a selection of board games. Anaheim, 714-453-4346
Pro tip: Thursday is quiz night. Food trucks park at the back, down a long hallway. G, C, FT
The Bruery (and Offshoot)
One of Orange County’s oldest brewers, with IPA-producing Offshoot, specializes in experimental and barrel-aged ales. Its beers have won numerous awards, with Mischief, a Belgian-style ale, winning twice in national beer competitions. Placentia, 714-729-2300
Pro Tip: The Barrel Room and Patio at the Anaheim location has space for 140 people for parties and private events. G, C, FT
Legends Craft Brewery
One of the closest breweries to Disneyland offers playful takes on base styles with Right in the Nuts—a peanut butter milk stout—and Double Stuff—an Oreo-leaning milk stout—leading the way. Lagers, IPAs, and other classic styles help fill out the tap list. Anaheim, 888-327-0202
Pro Tip: Try the all-natural sodas from Saddleback Soda Co. produced here. G, C, FT
Noble Ale Works
You can try award-winning beers true to their styles in a snug room in an industrial park. Nobility, an imperial IPA, has won gold and silver in recent years at the Great American Beer Festival. Anaheim, 714-634-2739
Pro Tip: Park here for free before events at nearby Angel Stadium and Honda Center. G, C, FT
It’s no accident that the skeletons and cannons are reminiscent of Pirates of the Caribbean. After all, the couple who own the joint met on the ride. Phantom began as a winery but switched to beer a few years ago. It also serves meads, hard seltzers, and—as one of the few breweries with an in-house kitchen—good grub. Anaheim, 714-225-3206
Pro tip: For DIYers, Phantom sells hops, grains, and home-brew equipment and offers demonstrations. G, K
The Public House by Evans Brewing Co.
Established in Irvine in 1994, its eight core beers and 12 experimental brews go along with a creative kitchen. Be sure to try Pollen Nation, an O.C. standout honey blonde ale. Fullerton, 714-870-0039
Pro Tip: Get a flight of three beers each paired with a whiskey taster for $12. G, K
The taproom has a rock ’n’ roll theme, with beers named after well-known songs (such as Emotional Rescue, an American pale ale), record labels (Tuff Gong, an American IPA), and bands (Kraftwerk, a Kölsch) on the tap list. Be sure to try Wall of Sound, the brewery’s gold medal-winning oatmeal stout. Placentia, 714-993-3390
Pro tip: Bring in your vinyl records, and the staff will play them for everyone to hear. G, C, FT
Unsung Brewing Co.
This retired marmalade factory was transformed into a grog-producing shrine to comic books, superheroes, and sci-fi. Captain America’s shield hangs over a window. Star Wars and Hulk action figures fill wooden cases above cushioned bench seats. And a comic-style mural dominates the taproom, which draws kids and adults. Anaheim, 714-844-2300
Pro tip: Hungry? Jav’s Bar-B-Q is in the same building, and the Anaheim Packing District sits across the street. G, C
Green Cheek Beer Co.
Bucking the trend of more hop-forward styles, Bier, a helles lager using all-German ingredients, is a standout seller with a straw color and bready notes. Also popular at the brewery’s two spots are several riffs on Italian-style pilsners, including one featuring herbal and slightly dank Amarillo hops. Costa Mesa, 714-760-4995; Orange, 714-998-8172
Pro Tip: Wines, ciders, and guest beers also available on draft. G, C, K, FT
Black Cock Brewing Co.
Rooster-centric art lines the walls of an easy-to-miss watering hole at an Orange business park. It pours such formulas as a Tootsie Roll-flavored chocolate beer and an orange creamsicle hefeweizen. The industrial milieu features a digital jukebox, shuffleboard table, and oversize Jenga and Connect 4 games. Orange, 714-248-7044
Pro tip: After-hours reservations are available on Fridays and Saturdays from 8 to 10 p.m. G
Brewing Reserve of California
Founders strive to include the community, with local art on display and sometimes for sale to customers. Ales range from a tropical blonde with Hawaiian tea to a dark brown with hints of chocolate and toffee.Costa Mesa, 714-884-4704
Pro Tip: Try the house-made lemonade in several flavors with ingredients that include strawberries, tropical fruits, and tea. G, C
Rollup doors are the portals into a warehouse setting that features a trio of spacious drinking rooms, frequent canine visitors, and a lengthy menu of pilsners, stouts, IPAs, and European lagers. An old delivery van sits in one wing, parked next to a ping-pong table, cornhole boards, and towering stacks of wooden barrels. Orange, 844-855-2337
Pro tip: Street parking is nearby, but pay attention to the signs. G, C, FT
Cismontane Brewing Co.
The owners claim to have whipped up nearly a thousand elixirs in their 11-year history, including one called Holden’s Homestead Miracle Memory Relaxer and Raccoon Repellent, a spiced dark brown ale aged in bourbon barrels. Another unusual formula is Mesa V, a pilsner and Riesling wine blend. Santa Ana, 949-888-2739
Pro tip: For a taste of what beer was like during the gold rush, try Cismontane’s California Lager. G, FT
Left Coast Brewing Co.
Beer is only one part of the equation at this brewery’s Irvine branch. There’s also a distillery, craft cocktails, and a Kansas City barbecue kitchen, plus weekly yoga classes and trivia nights. Left Coast is a spinoff of the San Clemente-based Oggi’s pizza chain. Irvine, 949-387-5170
Pro tip: Select beers are available in kegs. C, K
Santa Ana River Brewing Co.
A motto of “more hops than brains” makes clear the passion: a spicy, fruity, and dank approach to West Coast-style ales and a promise to take on classic styles to pair with classic street tacos from visiting food trucks. Santa Ana, 714-951-4025
Pro Tip: Old-school pinball machines offer entertainment at a bargain. G, C, FT
Pinball machines and loft seating add a twist to the atmosphere highlighting suds with such notes as graham crackers and chocolate (Grandpappy), grapefruit and pine (Double Nickels), or spicy ginger (Turtleneck). Grab a bite from the kitchen’s limited menu and retire to one of the comfy couches, leather chairs, or cozy nooks. San Juan Capistrano, 949-767-8170
Pro tip: Non-beer imbibers can order wine or bring their own bottle ($15 corkage fee). C, K
Laguna Beach Beer Co.
A guava-based hefeweizen and beers named after local mountain-biking trails are part of the beverage lineup at Laguna Beach Beer Co. Also available: sandwiches, salads, pizzas, board games, a sit-down Pac-Man machine, weekly trivia contests, and lots of local art. Kids are welcome. Rancho Santa Margarita, 949-264-6821
Pro tip: Mexican Coke and cream sodas are among the nonalcoholic drinks. G, C, K
Lost Winds Brewing Co.
Belgian-style ales are the passion of the three founders who named their brewery for a common pronunciation of local street Calle Lasuen. Trail 6 Belgian blonde ale is an award-winner. Or stick with the seaside theme and try Beach Boyz, a sour ale flavored with apples, boysenberries, and honey. San Clemente, 949-361-5922
Pro Tip: Check out the classic car meet every fourth Sunday. G, C, FT
What started as a project to revive a struggling pizza restaurant has expanded into a chain with six outlets. Core ales include a blonde with honey, an amber, and several IPAs, with many available in cans at retail stores across Orange County. San Clemente, 949-940-0005
Pro Tip: House-made ice cream and root beer will make kids happy. G, C, K
Four Sons Brewing
This small family operation started in 2014 and expanded rapidly with a dedicated following and hoppy beers that follow a familiar style. An American IPA finished with blood oranges is a perfect summer refresher. Beers are sold in several states, with a few available as far away as Guam. Huntington Beach, 714-584-7501
Pro Tip: Hang out on game days with other L.A. Kings fans. G, C, FT
Helmsman Ale House
The replacement of former Newport Beach Brewing Co. arrived with a new brewer, upgraded equipment, and a fresh dining menu. Beer capacity is expanding, and styles range from a bright American lager sweetened with corn to a chewy porter with coffee and maple. Newport Beach, 949-220-9977
Pro Tip: Full bar offers choices for those who want something other than beer. G, C, K
Head to orangecoast.com/beerboom for more from this feature.